LAST year, in the depths of the pandemic, Sally Dynevor made a promise to herself: once the world returned to some kind of normality, she would take the chances she’d been too frightened to consider before.
And next weekend, the 58-year-old actress, who has played the much-loved Sally Webster on Coronation Street since 1986, makes good on that promise –taking her first tentative steps out of her comfort zone as a contestant on ITV’s Dancing On Ice.
“After lockdown and everything that happened, I’ve felt that I just have to get on and do things and live the dreams that I want to live without being fearful any more,” she says.
“I think lockdown has made us all realise that. Life just changed so much, so I have to take every wonderful opportunity that comes my way, because it might never come my way again.
“My youngest daughter Hattie and I have been watching Dancing On Ice for years. She kept saying: ‘You should do it, Mum.’ And I thought: ‘Right, if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it.’”
Signing up for DOI wasn’t just to push her boundaries, but also to show the millions of Corrie fans who she really is.
“A friend of mine said: ‘You should do it because nobody knows [the real] Sally. They only know Sally Webster.’
“I’m hoping I’m not like Sally, although I think I am in certain ways – you can’t play a character for so long and not have things that are similar.
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"There are moments where I think: ‘Oh my god, that is such a Sally thing to do.’ She does creep into my personal life, but I try to leave her in the dressing room.”
Sally, who has no previous skating experience whatsoever, has been partnered with American skating champion Matt Evers, 45, and admits that she’s found the training tough.
“I am really enjoying it, but it’s not easy,” she says. “Yes [I’m worried about getting hurt]. Matt says that’s my problem, because he says my lines are good but then as soon as he lets go of my hand, I’m a different person.
"And he says it’s about confidence and just going for it. But that ‘going for it’ thing is really hard, because I might go for it and fall flat on my face and I don’t want to do that!
“But I’m loving being lifted and flying through the sky. It’s brilliant to have Matt, because he’s been doing it for a long time.
"We joke about doing the headbanger [a death-defying lift involving being picked up by the ankle and swung around by your partner]. There’s probably absolutely no chance I’ll be doing that, but never say never!”
At 58, Sally is the oldest contestant in this year’s line-up – narrowly trumping 57-year-old Happy Mondays member Bez – and she’s keen to encourage other people not to rule themselves out from trying new things, no matter what their age.
“When you get into your 50s and your children are grown up, there’s a sense of ‘sit back’, but I just want to keep pushing myself. I want to have as much fun over 50 as I did under 50, and I really want to encourage anybody my age to give it a go.”
Does she have her eye on the trophy? “Oh god, no, I’m definitely not in it to win it,” she laughs. “I’m in it to experience it and once [I’m out], it’ll be lovely watching all the wonderful contestants from back at home on the sofa.
“I won’t be too disappointed if the judges aren’t happy with what I’m doing. The fact that I actually got out on the ice and didn’t fall flat on my face… I won’t mind if I’m not doing it perfectly.
"I’ve said this to the [producers] – I’m not good, but I’m going to give it a go! And if I get through the first week, I’ll be really super-happy.”
'IT'S OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE'
But the mother of three does have a secret weapon – she’s assembled a crack team of Corrie’s former DOI contestants to give her the best insider advice.
“Samia [Longchambon], Jane [Danson], Lisa [George], Antony [Cotton] and Andy [Whyment] have all done amazingly on the show. I’ve been so proud of them because it’s hard.
"I’ve set up a ‘Corrie Dancing On Ice’ WhatsApp group. They’ve been brilliant and really encouraging. I need their support and to give me tips on how they coped. It’s really interesting hearing all their stories and what they went through, because I’m going through exactly the same thing.”
And, of course, she’s also got 2018 Dancing On Ice runner-up Brooke Vincent, who played her on-screen daughter Sophie, on hand, too.
“I get messages all the time from Brooke and Helen [Flanagan, who played her eldest daughter Rosie]. It’s so lovely watching them with their children.
"I just adore them both and I’m super-proud of them because they’re wonderful mums. They’re really happy and that’s all I wished for them.
“I would love it if they could come back to Corrie. But I think both Helen and Brooke would like to come back for one or two episodes rather than sign up for a long time, because of their children. But it would be perfect.”
Just learning to skate might be hard enough, but for self-confessed tomboy Sally, the daring outfits have proved to be quite challenging, too.
“It was a really weird thing to get all dressed up, as I’ve never seen myself look like that. I had hair pieces in with twinkly outfits, high-heeled shoes and fishnet tights.
"I was like: ‘Wow, who is this person?’ On Corrie, I never get to dress like that and in real life, I dress like a boy. It’s out of my comfort zone completely. It was such an experience.”
Sally has a phenomenal figure, which she puts down to regular spinning and barre classes, but says she’s been disappointed that her body hasn’t become more sculpted yet from all the hours of skating training.
“I’m eating so much because I get off the ice and I’m starving. But as it really ramps up and I’m learning more than one routine and everything kicks in a little bit more, I’m hoping that I’ll be a bit more toned up than I am now.”
Of course, Sally isn’t just famous for her role on the ITV soap any more – over the past year or so, she’s also become known as “Phoebe Dynevor’s mum”, since her 26-year-old daughter shot to stardom with her performance as Daphne in Netflix’s record-breaking period drama Bridgerton.
And then Sally made headlines herself when she accompanied her daughter to the Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year Awards in November, rubbing shoulders with A-listers like Claire Foy and Dame Joan Collins.
“I’m super-proud of Phoebe,” she says. “She’s carving out a career for herself and she’s doing really well. Yeah [I give her advice and discuss roles], but she’s got great instincts. She doesn’t need me. She’s very bright and switched on. She knows what she’s doing.”
Like any mum, Sally – who also has 24-year-old son Samuel and 18-year-old Harriet with her husband of 26 years, TV writer Tim, 59 – doesn’t want to just focus on her famous daughter, and instead is keen to talk about all her offspring equally.
“When Hattie goes out, people always say: ‘You look like the girl off Bridgerton,’ and she has to say: ‘That’s my sister.’ They look so alike. Hattie doesn’t know yet what she wants to do.
"She’s about to do A levels, but that’s all up in the air at the moment [because of the pandemic], which is worrying. Her plan is to go off to uni and do English, so we’ll see.
“And Sam is in financial PR. He’s never really wanted to be in [television], even though all the family is. Sam’s steered away from that and carved his own career path. I’m really proud of him for that.
“The kids are super-excited about Dancing On Ice. I haven’t shown them any videos, because I don’t want them to worry if they think I’m not very good. I want them to see it on the night, when I’m safe. But they’re super-proud and they all want to come on the first night.
'FOR ME, IT'S PERFECT'
“Tim was a little nervous. He would never stop me taking part, but he didn’t want me to hurt myself, and he’s worried I’ll get tired. He’s behind me in every way and wants me to follow this dream.”
It’s not surprising that her husband is worried about her tiring herself out – in addition to her intense training sessions, Sally has been filming a big story line for Coronation Street, involving her onscreen husband Tim Metcalfe (played by Joe Duttine) hiding the fact that he is suffering with heart problems.
She hints that 2022 is going to be a “big year to test Sally and Tim’s relationship.”
“There have been long days. It was tricky juggling [training] with the Street, because I had a big story. But it’s quietened down [for now], as Sally has gone off to see her sister, so I’ll have more time to concentrate on Dancing On Ice. But I love my job and Corrie always comes first for me.”
It’s no secret that acting is a precarious career, with the vast majority of stars spending swathes of time out of work, so Sally doesn’t take her 36-year tenure on the cobbles for granted – and sees no reason to ever leave.
“I came in to play Kevin’s girlfriend. I didn’t think she was gonna last very long. I thought: ‘I’ll probably only be in it for a few episodes and I’ll go.’ But 36 years later, I’m still there. I love it just as much now as I did then.
"When I get the scripts, I’m just as excited as I was on the very first day I started. And it’s a privilege to work on Coronation Street, because I’m getting great stories. Where else would that happen?
“I can’t imagine anything that I would rather be doing. If Coronation Street said to me: ‘Bye, you’re off,’ I’d never close the door, because I love it. I said at the beginning that I’d leave when I wasn’t enjoying it. And for some actors, Coronation Street isn’t the life they want to lead. But for me, it’s perfect.
"I can go home every night, I don’t have to travel up and down the country. My children are so important. I just want to be there for them. I want to be that person on the phone for them all the time and help them when I can.
"And I can do that when I’m doing Corrie. It’s just been a little bit difficult in the last few weeks [with juggling Dancing On Ice]!”
Sally also has Corrie to thank for meeting husband Tim – whose mum worked behind the scenes – and for potentially saving her life, after her character’s breast cancer story line in 2009 prompted her to have a tiny lump she’d had for a few months checked.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer and having a lumpectomy and chemotherapy, she returned to work following a six-month break. And through it all, she had her Corrie family for support.
“It’s lovely, because we have grown up together. Some of us have had kids at the same time. Michael [Le Vell, who plays her ex-husband Kevin Webster] and I have known each other since we were 13. We met at David Johnson’s theatre workshop on a Saturday morning in Oldham,” she says.
“I’ve probably known him longer than I’ve known anyone. We’ll always be close. I love that the writers put that in sometimes – I’ve had a couple of scenes in recent weeks where Sally and Kevin have a heart-to-heart.
"I really want to keep that going. I hope the relationship between Sally and Kevin continues, because I think it’s an important one.
“The crew and the cast, everyone’s been through so much together. It’s really hard for Corrie [with the pandemic], because you want to hug everyone and have lunch with your friends. I want to see the make-up department do our make-up again.
“It’s quite beautiful to have made life-long friends. You don’t get that in many jobs any more. It’s really worth holding on to.”
- Dancing On Ice starts next Sunday on ITV.
In the make-up chair with Sally
What are your skincare heroes?
Weleda Skin Food and Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream – it’s very nourishing. I’m trying collagen capsules, too. The menopause and chemo have made my skin drier and my hair really fine, so I’ll try anything!
What are your make-up bag essentials?
Mascara, eyeliner and lip balm.
What’s your best budget buy?
I’ve got extremely dry skin, so I take moisturising very seriously and Nivea seems to do as good a job as any of the posh creams.
Have you got any beauty tips?
As you get older, you realise it’s important to look after the whole body, so drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep.
Who’s your beauty icon?
I try to look at personality rather than appearance, but I’d say my daughters Phoebe and Hattie. They both always look gorgeous.
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